Foster's has not ruled out a distribution alliance with global beverage companies as part of its review of its US wine business. The review of Beringer Blass, which has already dealt with supply-chain problems, will now move to wine distribution in the US.

Chief executive Trevor O'Hoy, quoted in The Australian, said: "Acquisitions are on the back- burner and, in between, we could not preclude an alliance with Diageo, Allied Domecq or Pernod."

Foster's already has a distribution relationship with Diageo, which includes distributing Guinness in Australia.

O'Hoy told the newspaper that there were no plans to link up with a bigger beverage group for US distribution at this stage, but similar models would be assessed to see if they had competitive advantage. Foster's already uses Scottish & Newcastle in the UK.

O'Hoy disagreed, however, that distribution and size were the sole issues. "You need more than distribution clout: you've got to have brand equity, product quality and the right cost," he told the paper.

While Diageo was number one in the world for spirits, he said, Beringer still had a superior wine brand offering.